Indonesian soccer players pray together in sign of religious unity

by Margaret Wessel Walker

During a match at the beginning of June, three players of the Bali United soccer team took a moment to pray, each according to their traditions. Lined up next to each other, Ngurah Nanak, who is Hindu; Miftahul Hamdi, who is Muslim; and Yabes Roni, who is Christian formed a striking image of religious unity, which then went viral. The teammates were surprised by the photo’s popularity, but Nanak said “We did not plan it, but fortunately it turned into a positive message. So I hope it will have a good impact on everybody.”

Indonesia is majority Muslim, but has significant populations of Christians, Hindus, Buddhists, and followers of indigenous religions. Lately, the country has seen the rise of extremist Muslim groups, and convictions of blasphemy against Islam have shot upwards. A notable example of this was the arrest and conviction of Jakarta’s governor for blasphemy, sparking waves of protest in the city. Indonesia has historically been a place of tolerance and religious peace, and human rights groups see this trend as a step backwards.

The photograph was originally posted to Bali United’s Facebook page with the caption, “Because different beliefs will not prevent us from achieving the same goals.”

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